“I Went to Psychotherapy and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt,” by Joelle Renstrom

Sep 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Poetry

I go to therapy wearing my green and white military tank top that says: “my bush would make a better president.”

My therapist sits in a modest desk chair and I slide into a black leather recliner. It’s a nouveau version of the therapy couch. Sweat gathers behind my knees, itching and sticking against the leather. This chair is made for swiveling; it’s impossible not to. I try to make it look like a muscle twitch, but eventually we have to talk about it. That’s how she works.

“That’s a great top,” she says toward the end of our session.

“Thanks.” I’m glad she likes it. We look at each other in a friendly way.

She makes a sweeping hand gesture and says, “it’s interesting how you’re just putting the subject of your bush out there.”

“Well, yeah,” I say. “My bush is more than happy to belittle our president. It’s a civic duty.”

She smiles. “It’s interesting that you’re encouraging random strangers to think about your bush. Everyone who walks by you, no matter their gender or orientation or political stance, to some extent, even if only for a second, will think about your vagina.”

I look down at my tank top. I’m not wearing a bra-that would defeat the purpose somehow.

The air conditioner spits cold air right at my nipples, which punctuate my disdain for the president. I think they know they’re being discussed.

“So…does that mean you’re thinking about my vagina?” I ask her.

She laughs. “Well, of course. I’m a person, aren’t I?”

Outside, a car honks, and then another, and another, sounding down the street like dominoes. She’s still looking at me. I cross my hands over my breasts, my shirt, those words.

It’s an obvious thing to do, but I don’t care. Neither of us speak.

I can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t have to do with my vagina. Or my mother. This is bad.

I’ve been silent for too long. She’s sure to think it means something. She’ll probably want to talk about it next week. I’ll wear something different. I’ll never be out of therapy.

The next patient buzzes on the intercom. The monitor pixellates his face into anonymity.

I give her a false rainbow-shaped wave and walk out. In the waiting room, the next patient gets up from an overstuffed love seat. He avoids my face, but notices the sound politics of my bush.

He gives me a salute and thinks, if only for a second, about my vagina as he heads into therapy.


Joelle Renstrom lives in Boston, MA, where she “teaches” literature, writing, and communications. Her work has appeared in Carousel, the Allegheny Review, Sycamore Review, the New York Inquirer and other publications you’ve probably never heard of, and a chapbook of her poetry was published by the University of Arkansas Press. Other than reading and writing, she enjoys travelling, chapstick, electronica, the color orange, cheese, cooking, patterns, freaks, and good science fiction. She is currently “working” on a collection of essays.

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